Lightning wasn’t about to strike twice at William Floyd High School this week. Not with the Center Moriches Red Devils and their coach with the killer instinct in town.
The Red Devils and their head coach, former Killer Bees point guard Nick Thomas, bounced Bridgehampton from the overall Suffolk Tournament on Tuesday, winning in convincing fashion just three days after the Killer Bees shocked Greenport with an 87-85 victory in the Class C/D title game on the same floor.
The 111-53 victory in the B/C/D title game set the stage for Center Moriches to face either Wyandanch or Kings Park in the small schools championship game on Sunday, February 24, at Farmingdale State College at 7:30 p.m. The winner will play the Class AA champion for the overall Suffolk title on Wednesday, February 27, at Walt Whitman High School.
“It’s great to have the opportunities to play and get games under our belt,” said Thomas, who won a state title with the Killer Bees in 1996, but has yet to reach that pinnacle in his eight years as coach at Center Moriches. “Our kids were chomping at the bit. Now it’s just continuing to have that sense of urgency, and continuing to develop that killer instinct. They did a great job tonight coming out hungry from the beginning.”
Thomas on Tuesday was greeted, as usual, by the Killer Bee faithful and acknowledged for his contributions to East End basketball. When asked later if it’s hard for him to play the Killer Bees, and even harder to beat them by 58 points, he smiled widely before answering.
“I was raised to be a killer in Bridgehampton so I didn’t want to disappoint anyone in the community and my fellow alumni, not coming out with that kill mentality,” he said. “It’s a little bittersweet, giving it back to the home team, but at the same time we gotta do what we gotta do. It’s about how we play, not who we play.”
One of those fellow Bridgehampton alumni, of course, is current Killer Bees head coach Ron White, who earned the biggest win of his coaching career in the upset win over Greenport on Saturday. With the score tied in the final seconds, Bridgehampton point guard Naéjon Ward drove full court and hit a running jumper through traffic to push the Killer Bees past their longtime rival. Bridgehampton went into the game as heavy underdogs, having lost to the Porters twice this season by an average margin of 25.5 points per game.
But the Killer Bees (13-9) have long had the Porters’ number, except in recent years when the team from the North Fork has been building state championship aspirations. The Porters cruised to the League VII title this year with a perfect 12-0 record, but will now turn their focus to the Class C playoffs and a Southeast Regional final on March 9 at Centereach High School.
Following the loss to Center Moriches, the Killer Bees will turn their focus to the state playoffs as well, except in Class D, where they will meet Academy Charter of Hempstead on Friday, March 1, at 5 p.m. back at Center Moriches with a Long Island Championship on the line. The winner will advance to the Southeast Regional final tentatively scheduled for March 10 against an opponent from either Section I or Section IV.
But before that, and prior to the loss to Center Moriches, the Killer Bees were relishing their win over Greenport. Bridgehampton held a sizeable lead for much of the game, but the Porters came charging back in the fourth quarter. After Greenport’s Jaxan Swann hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 85 with 17.4 seconds left, Ward charged up court and nailed a tough shot to take the lead with just 1.3 seconds left.
The junior point guard finished with 31 points, 12 of which came in the fourth quarter. Elijah White added 29 points and J.P. Harding had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Ahkee Anderson, Greenport’s own dynamic point guard, had 40 points to lead all scorers.
“They understand they belong,” White said on Tuesday about the confidence his team gained as a result of the win over Greenport. “Naéjon understand he is one of the tough point guards to be reckoned with. Elijah is starting to believe in himself. J.P. has to continue to work and attack that rim and continue to shoot that midrange jump shot. Everybody else is just gritty and they’ll follow the lead of the Big Three, but the Big Three have to continue to work hard.”
As for Tuesday’s game, White chalked it up to facing “an awesome team” with tremendous athletic ability and a coach he respects. It just so happens that coach was also a high school teammate, and together they won a state championship in 1996. Flash forward 23 years and today they chase that elusive accomplishment as head coaches.
“I’m hoping if all goes well, we’ll see each other in our respective class up in Binghamton,” White said about the New York State Public High School Boys Basketball Championships, which will be held over the weekend of March 15 through 17 at the Floyd L. Maines Arena. “I respect him. I like we have a chance to give back to the community, give back to the kids. You gotta get in where you fit in. I was blessed to stay in Bridgehampton, he’s now created an awesome program in Center Moriches, and we just handle our business.”